Explore the blog, Then Check out our website

Explore the blog, Then Check out our website
Chicken Scratch Poultry

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Fall Mushroom Season - Edible Mushrooms Of Illinois

As the poultry season begins to slow down a little, Larry and I find time to sneak off and do something that we love, forage for fungi.  There is nothing more relaxing than getting into the woods and just start walking.

Yesterday morning, I headed out on the four wheeler to cut Bittersweet to fill orders for my Etsy shop, what a great time to also do a little mushroom hunting.
If you love Bittersweet for fall decor head over to the Chicken Scratch Store and get yourself a bouquet.
While cutting the Bittersweet I noticed all around me growing right in the grass was big beautiful Puffball Mushrooms.

Puffballs are easy to find and great if your a beginner in wild mushroom foraging.  The purple spored Calvatia Cyathiformis Puffball pictured to the left are easily found in Illinois.   The only thing to check before cooking is the inside of the Puffball.  Slice it open, if the inside is completely white like a marshmallow it's safe to eat.  If there is any color other than white discard it.
If you find one Puffball there is very likely many more close by so keep searching.  You can find Puffballs growing beside wooded areas in the grass.
If you find Puffballs that have reached the puff stage, go ahead and give them a stomp, this is how the spores are released and you'll very likely be able to find more Puffballs in this are the next season.

Another type of Puffball easily found in Illinois is the pear shaped Puffball.  They're very small but on the good side, if you come across pear shaped Puffballs they always grow in huge clusters and usually never alone.  Same rule goes for this Puffball, the inside must be pure white if you plan to eat.

This is a nice cluster of pear shaped Puffballs.  It's fun when you come across a bunch of these little guys.
Pear shaped Puffballs are found in the forest along side dead trees or growing on dead trees.  September and October is a great time to start looking for this type of shroom.

One of my favorite fungi to find is the Wood Ear.  Wood Ear grows on dead tress or live trees that have dead areas on them.  There is a look alike for Wood Ear that is poisonous but is easy to identify as not edible.  The look alike is bright orange, smelly, and easy to smear.  Wood ear is rubbery and can not smear.  The orange look alike is call Witch's Butter, yuck!!
You've probably eaten Wood Ear before if you've had Hot And Sour Soup in an Asian restaurant.  Wood Ear has no flavor, it is really more about the texture with this mushroom.  Wood Ear fungi can be dehydrated for storage and easily reconstituted in water.
I cooked these lovely ears in a vegetable stir fry, yum!

Hen Of The Woods, another one of my favorites!  September is a good time to start hunting for this delicious shroom.  They're a little difficult to find, they're very camouflaged and look just like a pile of leaves but if you do find one they're usually as big as a basket ball or bigger, so they're a nice find!  I've even heard of people finding enough to fill a pickup truck bed.
Hen Of The Woods does have a look alike but they're also easy to identify so do your homework before eating.
It's a good idea to soak this mushroom in salt water before cooking, the overlapping lobes hide many Beatles and bugs.

The Chicken Mushroom, also easily found in Illinois.  It can be found growing on dead hardwood logs in the forest and will be spotted a long distance away by it's very bright yellowish orange huge.
The Chicken Mushroom grows in huge clusters.  If you find this shroom you will likely fill a bushel basket in one location.  Chicken Mushroom also has a look alike but can also be easily identify, so just do a little research before eating.

On this particular foraging day we found baskets of Chicken Mushrooms.
I have found that Chicken mushroom doesn't agree with me for some reason.  It causes stomach upset, not sure why, it didn't have that effect on anyone else in our family.  I have even tried it a second time with the same effect, so I no longer eat this fungi.
Chicken Mushroom freezes well for storage if you happen to find a bounty of it.

One of the most unique mushrooms we've ever found is the beautiful Lion's Mane.  We went on a hunt just as the leaves were beginning to turn, just so happens this is the prime time to find a Lion's Mane.  My daughter found this one growing on the inside of a fallen dead tree.  They looked just like snowballs!
The taste was amazing!!  Sauteed in butter they taste just like lobster.  Very sweet!
I'm ready to check this particular log again this year.

This week we fried up some Puffball mushrooms.  They're dipped in egg then Parmesan cheese and fried golden brown, I served them with pasta and marinara sauce. Super yummy!
They tasted very much like fried mozzarella cheese sticks.

Get outdoors and do some foraging, even if you don't feel confident enough to eat what you find, it's still fun to hunt.  If you keep researching the mushrooms that you come across, you will soon begin to recognize what is good and what is not good.  When in doubt throw it out.  Only eat if you're completely sure of what you have.

Happy Foraging!!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Worming, Ear Tags & Vaccinations - Gotland Lambs

Last week we began the process of vaccinations, worming and ear tags for our little lambs.  We have five Gotland lambs so it wasn't a huge job but it was a learning experience for all of us.  We began the process by fencing off a corner of the paddock with a cattle panel and luring the lambs to the corner so that they were easy to catch up.

The first ear tag was nerve racking to say the least.  After the first one was tagged, I took over the tagging, it was easier for Larry to hold them while I tagged the ear.  It wasn't so bad once we got going.  The lambs seemed fine with the whole process.

All the lambs have a new ear ring and Larry and I have a new skill of piercing ears. 

Next we caught up the ram for his vaccination and worming.  That is the ram's
therapy goat in the background, the calming goat :) 

The next hurdle will be weaning lambs. 

Have a Blessed Day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Coronation Sussex - The Poultry For Royalty

What better way to commemorate the royal wedding than to offer a 30% off sale on the chicken created for royalty so many years ago?  The beautiful Coronation Sussex was created to honor the Coronation of King George.  I like poultry with a history and I think you will too.
This past weekend we watched as the Royal couple Prince Harry and Megan were given the title of Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The Coronation Sussex are a large heavy breed, they're impressive in size but even much more impressive in color.  They have a lavender mane and tail on a porcelain white body. 

The roosters are non aggressive and hens are friendly. 
They're a good winter time layer and have down like a goose that helps them thrive in cool climates.
Our summers are very hot and humid here in Southern IL and we find that they need a fan during the hottest weeks.  It is quite a sight to watch them stand in front of the fan with wings spread.

Coronation Sussex eggs have a pinkish hue.  

We've had the Coronation Sussex breed for around 8 years now and I still find them fascinating!
 Come on over and check out The royal Coronation Sussex.  We're offering 30% off of Coronation Sussex started pullets and roosters this week.

Have a blessed day!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hive Maintenance - Spring Hive Inspection

I always try and do a quick hive inspection in February just to check and see if all the hives have survived the winter.  To my great disappointment this February I discovered that we had lost two hives over the winter months.  We had a very harsh winter this year but I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the hives collapse.  Our spring came really late and from February until May we lost another hive and back in February this hive looked to be healthy. 

We've now had bee hives for about four years, I think, and we're still learning so much about the bees.  Probably one of the hardest lessons learned last summer was don't add a super (or box) onto the hive too far in advance of them needing it.  It's such a fine line, if you wait too long they feel out of space and they'll swarm.  Last year I'm pretty sure I gave a hive a super before they were ready for it and it gave them too much territory to patrol and it allowed wax months to get the upper hand and take over the hive.  That was my fault and I felt terrible about it.

We opened our remaining two hives today.  It's always necessary to smoke the hive before you begin.  Start by puffing smoke into the hive entrance and wait a couple of minuets before opening the hive.  Once you open the hive then give a few puffs of smoke from the top of the open hive.  Maybe you already know all of this information but there could be someone who doesn't know this.  It's taken a lot of painful bee stings before I was able to convenience my husband of this procedure.  It's much less stressful on the hive and the husband if you use smoke.

The hives seemed to be healthy, they're foraging, capping honey and raising brood.  I did see some queen cells being produced in one hive, so it's looking like they will swarm soon.  I need to keep an eye on them, I would like to catch the swarm and start a new hive.

We added new beetle traps to the hives.  I put 2 in each hive, they work very well.  Fill with oil, I use vegetable, or mineral oil.  The bees chase the beetles around and they run to hid in the holes of the trap and drown in the oil.  Hive beetles are probably our worst problem.  Our hives are sitting in a slightly shaded area and really need to be moved into the direct sun, no shade.  Beetles don't like a hot hive.

We opened the hives that collapsed over the winter just to take a look and see if we could tell what had happened.  Each hive had a full box of uneaten honey, so that tells me that they didn't starve.  Some of you more experienced bee keepers, if you have any ideas for us to check for let us know.  We would love to hear what you have to say.

Hive collapse is a serious problem here in the US and we need to do all that we can to help the bees. 

Share your words of wisdom about bee keeping with us, we would love to hear from you.  I'll leave you with these words that I know to be true.

Proverbs 25:16
If you find honey, eat just enough - too much of it, and you will vomit.

Have a blessed day!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Southern Illinois Water Emergency - Rend Lake Water Crisis

Photo credit, Chris Kays for the Southern

A breach in a 36 inch water pipe yesterday evening has shut down water to several cities and towns across Southern IL.  Residents have been asked to conserve water.  Many business, restaurants, hair salons and schools have been closed until workers can create a bypass for one of the three pumps that service our area.   
As you can imagine this has caused much panic and ciaos through our area as people scramble to the stores to purchase every last bottle and jug of water on the store shelves. 

The tiny town of Dahlgren IL, where two of our children live, will have it's water turned off within the next 2 hours and they aren't sure when it will be up and running again.  Would you be prepared in your home if something like this happened?  It hasn't taken much to shut down half of the water in Southern IL.  We've found that we're not very prepared.  We do have a pond for watering the livestock if needed and I suppose we can boil the water for ourselves.  We can use pond water for flushing toilets also.  What would you do, have you even considered it?  I hadn't until now.

As we sat and thought about how to plan for the next couple of days with the water issue,  we know that we must make preparation for our two incubators and hatchers that have a couple thousand eggs in them.  Our incubators and hatchers require a lot of water to keep the humidity at a constant level.  

This might not seem very important to some flocks but these eggs will be chicks and young pullets that will be shipped out for several weeks and months.  So it's important to us.

We'll be setting large pans of warm water in the bottoms of each unit which should keep the humidity at the correct level but will need to be checked often.  Hopefully they'll get the water back up and running before we need to test this theory but it's not sounding like it. 

Take a moment and make a plan today about what you would do if you wake up in the morning and there is no running water.  If you have a pond, do you have a way to filter that water to make it safe for drinking?  If you don't have a pond where will you get water, it's not as easy as just going to the store, keep in mind the shelves will be bare.

All will be good here on the farm with or without running water, I'm assured of that as I keep this verse in mind.

“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14  

Have a blessed day!


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Boost A Chick Hydrating Gel - Poultry Shipping Gel

Out of complete desperation two years ago I began the process of creating a hydrating gel for shipping our poultry.  We had used a gel that's been on the market for several years now but it just wasn't performing as we needed and we were experiencing high mortality rates with our chick shipments.   We've shipped chicks now for around 10 years and when we first began, the postal system would get them  to their destitution in a very timely manner but for the last couple of years that has all changed and now the postal system gives themselves three days to deliver poultry.   Well as you can imagine that doesn't work out so well for live animals. 

We needed a product that could stay fresh for several days and provide what the poultry needed in the way of nutrition, hydration and beneficial bacteria no mater the age or size of the bird.  I've tested our product for two shipping seasons and made a few changes here and there.  Our mortality rates dropped, which was my goal all along.

Boost A Chick Hydrating Gel can be used to ship all bird species, quail, ducks, turkeys...if it needs nutrition and hydration, then you need Boost A Chick Gel.

The gel product that we used in the past would spoil and smell bad after the first day, I needed a gel that would stay fresh for three to four days in the mail.  I finally achieved that goal, I feel totally equipped and ready for this years shipments.
The gel is easy to use, just mix with water.  We glue plastic cups in the corners of the boxes and the hatch-lings have easy access to nutrition.

You can purchase this product from our website or Etsy shop.  If I never sell a single package I'll still be completely happy using it for my own shipments.  I hate to keep it to myself when I know how well it works and there has to be other small farms that can benefit from this product.

Boost A Chick Hydrating Gel is available in 500 dose or 2000 dose packages.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Down On The Farm Photos - Spring On The Farm

I have some sweet Jubilee pullets available for shipment now.  Isn't she cute!!!

Spring has sprung!

If your interested in purchasing Gotland lambs drop me an email.  I will have a couple of ram lambs and maybe one little ewe lamb for sale soon.

Happy Spring!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Shearing Day - Gotland Sheep Shearing

We finally found a sheep shearer in IL, Hallelujah!!  He got us on the calendar for shearing on April 4th.  I thought that sounded like a great day since I didn't expect lambing until a little later in April.  As we rushed around trying to get everything ready for shearing I noticed Kajsa was hanging off by herself, her back was hunched and she wasn't acting normal.  I continued to watch her and pretty soon she is curling her lip.  DING, it finally struck me, she's in labor!!  As I've told you, we're flying by the seat of our pants with sheep.  Lucky us, the sheep shearer showed up just at the right day and time for us and Kajsa.  He took one look and said I see two little feet and a nose, you'll have a lamb in a few minutes.  Sure enough, within a few minutes we had a lamb on the ground.  The shearer took another look and said there's another one coming.  How exciting!!  A couple of minutes later we had two lambs on the ground, one little ewe and one little ram lamb.  We left Kajsa with the job of cleaning up the lambs and the shearing began.

This photo was taken just before the lambs were born.  She has that look of, help I don't feel well on her face.

The ram was the first  to walk into the shearing corner.  He went in looking all woolly and completely black in color. 

He bounced out of the corner nicely shaved, strutting his new Gotland gray coloring.  I would have never guessed that he would turn grey.  Gotlands are totally amazing with their color changes.

As soon as Kajsa had her lambs cleaned up, he went ahead and sheared her also.  That made it much easier for the lambs to find the utter.  Kajsa also had a major color transformation.  When she came to us last summer, she was very brown and black in color, she is now very silver.

When he was finished shearing we had four very large bags of beautiful Gotland fleece.   Can't wait to get them skirted and shipped off to the mill. 

Shearing is finished, they're good to go until fall.  We began with three ewes and one ram.  Lambing season is over and we now have two new little ram lambs and three little ewe lambs.  Wow a flock can multiply rather quickly :)

It's been amazing fun beginning our adventures in sheep.  I'd like to thank Kim Goodling of Grand View Farm for the beautiful healthy flock of Gotland sheep and the many hours of mentoring through emails.

Have a Wonderful Day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

All Natural Rodent Repellent - Rid Your Farm Of Mice

Larry and I have lived on this farm for 23 years and I must say a lot has changed over those years.  For the past 12 years we've operated a poultry breeding farm and hatchery right here in rural Illinois.  If you had asked me 23 years ago what we would do on this farm, I would have never said chicken farming but I can honestly say I feel blessed beyond measure!

Well, down to business now, I want to talk to you about mice and rats.  For the past 12 years, the more poultry we've added to the farm the more mice that we also accumulate.  Too many mice can become a real problem.   Once the mice move into the barns it's not long and you'll see rats and with rats comes a hole different kind of craziness!!  Larry makes bait buckets to put mouse poison in so that dogs and chickens aren't able to get to the bait.  This works pretty well but we've been using this method for years and it's gotten to the point that it really no longer works.   We're tired of spending hundreds of dollars every year just to kill mice.  Price a bucket of mouse poison, it's not cheap.

This is where the all natural mouse repellent comes into the story...

For the past 12 years we had no outdoor cats here on the farm, there wasn't really room in the barns for them to roam around, so we thought...so we just didn't have a cat.

This is Missy, there's really nothing special about her, she's not really very beautiful BUT she repels mice and rats like crazy!!  All Natural, no poison.  She is a hunting machine!!  She patrols 2 barns, a pullet shed, a brooder shed and a Morton building all by herself.
She climbs the wire pens and goes in and out of places I never thought she could go and she never offers to bother the chickens.
I think within the next month or so she will have eradicated the mice here at the CSP.
Good job Missy you win the Employee of the month award, sorry Lane and Heather :)

I recommend the all natural rodent repellent, it works great!! She is also very entertaining while gathering eggs :)

I have a quick story for you about little Missy, after I got Missy we had several other cats that just showed up (someone so nicely dumped on us) and my grand daughters had just lost a cat so I decided to send Missy and Barny home with my sweet grand daughters.  My son told me that when they went to check on Missy the next morning that she had disappeared.  Well two weeks later Missy showed back up at our farm, it was about a 15 to 20 mile walk for her and it took her two weeks to get back home.  So Missy is hear to stay.  I didn't know cats also had an inside compass.

Have a great day and instead of buying a bucket of poison buy a bag of cat food.